I’ve been digging. Not in the garden, which, this year is doing without me. First, I announced I was no longer the Little Weed Weeder. No, not true. First I looked out across the brown shrubs and trunks of winter resisting furiously the spring urge to spring, and not surprisingly, as the sky was still the colour of ice and the wind sharp enough to cut through fast food packaging. Although part of me longed for the warmth, there is a price to pay for warmth I have found and it arrives overnight in wide seas of determined green, growing more determined as the days follow the nights. I had gravel outside the door a month ago. Not any longer. Now it is a wondrous display of dandelions, plantains, campion and thistles. Much softer underfoot.
That’s when I made my announcement.
Yesterday I did waiver eversoslightly when Guilt nudged my elbow and made me take a good look at the sloppy trollope I have become.
No, I said, No….go away (or words to that effect) – for I have a book to write, a new one and if I start following your fat batty guilt as I have done for centuries, I will find my gravel but lose my raison d’etre, and, having only just found it, I don’t plan to do that.
Back to my digging.
In boxes, cupboards, drawers and the like, I am finding trinkets and gewgaws from 200 years ago and marvelling at the quality of materials and workmanship. These things may be cracked or damaged, and they all smell funny, but they still work, still open and close as they did at first and that is a lot more than can be said of pretty much anything for sale on our high streets today. I am careful how I word that bit for there are indeed exceptionally high standards of workmanship spread right across the material world, but the attitude of care and accompanying skills in crafting each item as an individual piece is no longer something we expect.
As I find each piece, I can tell you nothing about it. Chaps no longer keep a personalised manicure set bound in leather, each piece resting in a nest of soft blue velvet. For a start, it is cumbersome, and would probably make his hand luggage too heavy. For the ladies, a weighty and heavily ornate ladies make-up mirror. Something else to dust and polish and blow that for a lark. Leather bound snuff boxes, cigarette cases, monogrammed and silvered up enough for royalty, silver lighters, personal ash trays, also monogrammed, for waistcoat pockets or handbags. Nobody smokes anymore and those who do have packets in pockets and hide round stony cold corners. There would be little interest in the sporting of flashy pointers towards the habit they would dearly love to break.
And so on and on.
So, what to do with it all? Do we, as Keepers of the Past, keep it? And for what? Our ikea children?
I don’t think so. I think we should hold the stories and tell them into the ears of the children who want to know. After all, not everyone is interested in great granny’s trinkets, having never even met the old girl. And then, I think we should clear our attics, empty our veneered cabinets of decorative cups and quaintly useless fal-de-lal, and move them on. Otherwise, trust me, when we are pushing up the daisies, some poor soul will have that awful job of clearing it all out in a volatile atmosphere of ignorance, guilt and sentimentality. In my own role as Clearer Out, I struggled a lot. Not with the clearing, for we could hardly breathe in this little place for lumpy trinkets and I could hardly wait for the new wheelie bins to be delivered- but with the familial tussle over letting anything go, as if, in doing so, we would threw out granny’s memory as well.
What we need to learn is to let go of things that do not take us forward in our lives. So many of us, including this sloppy trollope, waste our precious days in general maintenance, allowing our God given gifts to float away into the recesses of our minds like clouds. Come the day we lie, wondering what on earth we have achieved in our life, we just know we didn’t get it right. Oh we may have polished, and labelled, looked after and managed, but did we create something completely new? Did we say Poo to all that grey mind-numbing drudge and turn towards doing what we know we love, even if we don’t yet know how to make it work? Did we risk? Did we clear out the ‘granny junk’, still remembering her sparkle, her wisdom, her humour, those things that changed us and made us who we are, or did we store it in the loft, in mice-chewed boxes, moaning every time we had to dust or polish things we hate looking at?
Letting go is not easy for most. And yet, it is the only way to clear space for the new and I do not mean substitute material trinkets.
I mean space. Emptiness. Nothing. Patience.
One day, an idea will come. Let it settle.